After WWE’s trip to Brooklyn last week, the future of the industry feels bright. International Superstars and ultra-talents like Nakamura and Asuka reign supreme in NXT. The post-brand extension WWE is highlighting unique superstars like never before. Finn Balor, Sasha Banks, Enzo & Cass, American Alpha and so many more. The common thread between those performers and other rising stars? They’ve all come through a system created by Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Triple H has become synonymous with the future of the industry. Every time a top talent reaches the main roster, wins a major title or simply steals the show, they typically post a photo with HHH, thanking him for the opportunity.
While Stephanie’s wicked on-screen persona paints her in a more negative light than Hunter, make no mistake: the ultimate WWE power couple is forging the future of pro wrestling together. Still, one can’t help but wonder…what if Triple H and Stephanie never got married?
How It Happened
On the November 29th 1999 edition of Monday Night Raw, young Stephanie McMahon was set to marry the love of her life, Andrew ‘Test’ Martin. Like every wrestling wedding ever, the ceremony was interrupted. Triple H made his way out to the arena with a startling revelation. He already married an unconscious Stephanie at a Las Vegas drive thru chapel over the weekend. The billionaire princess wept as her wedding to Test was ruined. The following week, a match was made for Armageddon 1999: Vince vs Hunter. If Vince wins, the marriage is annulled. If The Game won, he gets another shot at the world championship.
At Armageddon, Triple H’s trademark sledge hammer buried Vince for the 1-2-3. That wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was Stephanie’s reaction. Initially upset over her father’s bloodied face, Steph looked at her husband and began to smile. The newlyweds embraced, kissed and revealed that they had been in cahoots the entire time. This moment cemented Stephanie’s conniving and power-hungry persona on television that is still reflected in her character today. This also cemented the cerebral assassin as perennial world title contender.
17 years later, Hunter and Stephanie are more involved in WWE than ever before. Hunter is the head of NXT and the COO. Stephanie is the face of the brand in corporate circles. And both still appear regularly as their semi-evil characters on television. Despite Shane McMahon being older than his sister Stephanie, the work she and her husband have done in the past decade (in Shane’s absence) means she’s presumably next in line for the WWE birthright as CEO. It’s crazy how this all happened on screen and behind the scenes. Imagine if it didn’t…
How It Could Have Happened
Triple H had already won two WWE championships in 1999. His place as a main eventer in WWE in the early 21st century was a foregone conclusion regardless of his spouse. What wasn’t guaranteed was his continued involvement behind the scenes. Rock, Austin, Foley, HBK, Nash, Hall and others found new endeavors after their WWE careers ended. Some went to Hollywood. Some focused on family. Some…went to TNA. Nash, Hall, Foley, X-Pac and Flair, all ended up in Orlando’s Impact Zone at one point trying to reinvent themselves and help shape the future of WWE’s rival. If his spouse wasn’t the boss’ daughter, nothing would have held Hunter in WWE forever and a rise to COO would seem incredibly unlikely. If he wanted more backstage involvement, TNA might have been the best place for him to cut his teeth. Hunter would have been a huge asset to TNA both on-screen and behind the scenes.
As for Stephanie McMahon, she is simply incredible. She’s shown her ability as an on-screen character in WWE, but her work behind the scenes as a company executive showcases her creativity, compassion and unparalleled prowess for entrepreneurship. Shane left the family business in 2009 to pursue his own endeavors. If her husband wasn’t a part of the WWE roster, it’s not unfathomable to think that Stephanie would have taken her talents elsewhere as well. Be it a non-profit or a Fortune 500 boardroom, the possibilities are endless for someone like Stephanie McMahon.
Had Steph and Hunter both left the company at any point in the past 17 years, you can only imagine where the industry would be. Vince would be the singular backbone for the WWE. Wrestling outsiders, or wrestling insiders with inadequate skill sets, would be at the helm of the business’ biggest company. Many of WWE’s biggest failures in the past 10 years have been attributed to CEO Vince McMahon and Executive Producer Kevin Dunn’s stubbornness to adapt or compromise (See: Roman Reigns). Stephanie and Hunter are viewed by many fans as the light at the end of the tunnel and their voice at the proverbial table. Their influence has already shown through with NXT, the women’s revolution and their work with Connor’s Cure. If those things are truly indicative of the future, it’s easy to say that Triple H and Stephanie’s marriage might be one of the most important things to ever happen on screen and behind the scenes in the history of the wrestling business.